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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Osteoarthritis


Lifestyle changes can’t cure OA. However, they can help to:

  • Manage discomfort caused by OA
  • Improve mobility and decrease disability
  • Slow future damage to joints

Lifestyle recommendations include:

Reach or Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can help:

  • Improve symptoms caused by OA
  • Slow OA from getting worse
  • Reduce OA injury in other joints

Excess weight puts extra stress on your joints. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor or a dietitian. They can help find you find options that may work for you.


Joint pain may make you less likely to be physically active. However, not moving can make the joints worse. Regular activity can help your joints move better and decrease stiffness. It can also decrease pain.

One important factor is strength. Strong muscles can decrease wear and tear on the joint. It also helps to absorb impact. This can protect the joint surfaces.

Exercise programs can be tailored to your needs. There are many options to work around sore joints. An exercise physiologist or physical therapist can help to design an effective program.

Reduce Stress    TOP

Stress can make pain worse. There are several ways to reduce stress, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Guided breathing and other relaxation techniques

Returning to Everyday Life    TOP

Chronic conditions like OA can be stressful. You may feel frustrated with changes in your lifestyle. Support groups or counseling can help you better meet these changes.

Talk to your care team if you are having trouble with pain. Other treatments options may be available to help better manage your OA.

Monitor Yourself for Depression    TOP

Mood changes can happen. It is most common within the first few months of a new diagnosis. It may also occur during periods of intense symptoms. Depression can make your symptoms worse. Call your doctor if you have more than 2 weeks of sadness, hopelessness, or have a loss of interest in your favorite things.


ACR issues recommendations on therapies for osteoarthritis of the hand, hip, and knee. Am Fam Physician. 2013;87(7):515-516.

Cadmus L, Patrick MB, et al. Community-based aquatic exercise and quality of life in persons with osteoarthritis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(1):8-15.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116897/Osteoarthritis-OA-of-the-knee . Updated March 15, 2018. Accessed May 30, 2018.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114846/Osteoarthritis-OA-of-the-hip . Updated March 15, 2018. Accessed May 30, 2018.

Fransen M, McConnell S. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD004376.

Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 30, 2016. Accessed May 30, 2018.

Sinusas, K. Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(1):49-56.

2/15/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116897/Osteoarthritis-OA-of-the-knee : McAlindon T, LaValley M, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on progression of knee pain and cartilage volume loss in patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2013;309(2):155-162.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 5/30/2018

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